The simplest way of defining placemaking is referring it as a process of turning a “space” into a “place” by giving the people a reason to use it. Although the theoretical foundation of placemaking is solicited from various backgrounds, it is currently being maximized by tourism and urban development. According to Winikoff (1995), placemaking refers to both the process and philosophy that utilizes the principles of urban design. Numerous space related scholars have majorly explored the concept of placemaking from an angle of art and design since art and artists have a long history of contributing and changing cities. The relationships between placemaking and art and design are formulated in various ways one of them being the presence of art in cities. As per Redaelli, (2018), three paradigms, which include art in public space, art as public spaces as well as art in the public interest, can be systematically differentiated while exploring relationships between placemaking and art and design (Redaelli, 2018).
Art in a public space is typically associated with a modernist abstract sculpture placed outdoors to “decorate” or “enrich” urban spaces. The second paradigm is connected with more important role of art in a public space. It is not only an art in a public space but art that can create the public space (art as a public space). This approach places more emphasis on the choice of the place where the work is to be situated. It is so called “site-specific” art work. This is less object-oriented and more site-conscious art that looks after greater integration between art and urban environment through artists’ collaboration with professionals in revitalizing cities (Redaelli, 2018). The last paradigm, art in a public interest, refers to often temporary city-based programs focusing on social issues rather than the built environment that involve collaborations with marginalized social groups.
Art can be also included into urban revitalization programs. The types of public art involved in these programs depend very much on the type of revitalization programs. For example Tim Hall and Iain Robertson indicate that we can recognize a broad distinction between flagship, or prestige, revitalization projects and communal revitalization projects. These have been summarized by the Policy Studies Institute as: contributing to local distinctiveness, attracting companies and investment, having a role in cultural tourism, adding to land values, creating employment, increasing the use of open spaces, reducing wear and tear on buildings and lowering levels of vandalism (Bain & Landau, 2019).
Creative Placemaking can be used by communities to engage residents locally, enhance public space and contribute to healthy sustainable communities. It is a strategy to improve community well-being and prosperity while also fostering conditions for cities to define, draw attention to and distinguish themselves on a global scale (Zitcer, 2020). The success of creative placemaking is dependent upon collaborations between various civic stakeholders such as governments, private investment, not-for-profit organizations, artists and citizen groups. As part of this process, partnerships and shared leadership are crucial to build momentum and harness the power of the arts to heighten quality of life and revitalize buildings, neighbourhoods and cities. Within this task, many tools exist to cultivate connections between people and place such as cultural districts, artist relocation projects, mixed-use development, municipal cultural planning, creative industries, public art, community art and urban design (Kelkar & Spinelli, 2016).
The end results of creative placemaking can be astounding, and it is important that communities do not simply borrow or copy what has been done elsewhere, but instead look to their own assets and needs to come up with place-based strategies. Around the world, combined energies and interests have used creative placemaking to transform communities and inspire positive investment and change. Public parks share dynamic relationships with the communities they serve (Kelkar & Spinelli, 2016). The way we design parks can promote or hinder their diversity of use, exclude or empower neighborhoods, resemble anywhere or reflect the history and collective values of the place. To create parks that enable residents to feel more connected to place, community development project leaders are choosing to partner with artists, designers, and cultural organizations (Zitcer, 2020). Termed creative placemaking, this type of community-based art-making process has proven an effective tool in advancing a project’s goals, helping animate spaces, and bringing together communities. Creative placemaking also empowers communities – especially those most vulnerable and gives them a voice to help shape their neighborhood parks.
To promote the use of creative placemaking in parks and open spaces, The Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance recently released The Field Guide for Creative Placemaking and Parks (Borrup, 2016). Funded in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the guide introduces the idea of creative placemaking to parks professionals and advocates who work to create and sustain parks in their community. Mathew Clarke, Director of Creative Placemaking at The Trust for Public Land said in a statement: “The Field Guide will play an important role in ensuring that not only do Americans have access to parks but that those parks reflect the culture of their communities” (Borrup, 2016). The Field Guide acts as a “how-to” guide for implementing creative placemaking projects and showcases eleven case studies that highlight a diversity of approaches and outcomes.
Covering topics varying from how to engage the community and find partners to how to fund a project and implement a vision, the Field Guide is a go-to resource for creative placemaking projects (Borrup, 2016). Focusing particularly on park-based projects, the publication defines creative placemaking as “a cooperative, community-based process using arts and cultural expression to create or rejuvenate parks and open spaces, thus deepening a sense of place and inspiring community pride.” By leveraging the power of arts and culture, The Trust for Public Land believes we can lift up communities around the country with the creation of parks that encourage social connections within and between communities.
The Field Guide showcases how creative placemaking makes for better parks and stronger communities by demonstrating its ability to advance arts and culturally-based approaches to all phases of park making. One of the larger case studies outlined in the Field Guide, Rose Kennedy Greenway, provided Boston with the opportunity to reinvent itself as a world class hub of innovation (Zitcer, 2020). When the city decided to bury an elevated highway that bisected downtown, they were able to build a signature park on top of the new tunnel. More than a mile long and 17-acres in size, the linear park weaves through downtown, adjoining a diverse mix of neighborhoods.
Another case study, Underpass Park in Toronto, reimagines an often underutilized space a highway underpass into a community asset. A previously dangerous space that served as a barrier between the north and south sections of the community, Underpass Park was designed to enliven this dark, concrete area. Creating opportunities for play, the park features basketball courts; innovative children’s play equipment, and a skate park. Community-curated public art, including work by sculpture and graffiti artists, was integrated to add character to the formerly infrastructural space and to convey a sense of identity from people in the surrounding neighborhoods. This project used creative placemaking to bring space back to the community. It now serves not only as a safe and beautiful community connection but also as a recreational destination for the city.
Bain, A. L., & Landau, F. (2019). Artists, temporality, and the governance of collaborative place-making. Urban Affairs Review, 55(2), 405-427.
Borrup, T. (2016). Creative placemaking: Arts and culture as a partner in community revitalization. Fundamentals of arts management, 50-69.
Kelkar, N. P., & Spinelli, G. (2016). Building social capital through creative placemaking. Strategic Design Research Journal, 9(2), 54-66.
Redaelli, E. (2018). Creative placemaking and theories of art: Analyzing a place-based NEA policy in Portland, OR. Cities, 72(Part B), 403-410.
Zitcer, A. (2020). Making up creative placemaking. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 40(3), 278-288.